Humble Offerings

From May 4 to May 10, 2010, the first ever Humble Indie Bundle sale took place. In it, consumers could opt to pay as much or as little as they cared for a selection of computer games from six known and not-so-well-known developers. Customers could also choose what percentage went towards the developers, 'Child's Play' (a video game centric charity dedicated to bringing gaming and toys to those in care) and a tip to Humble Bundle Inc., the company set up to organise such sales.

The idea for such a promotion came from Jeff Rosen of Wolfire Games, one of the developers included in the first bundle. He noted that previous existing promotional sales, specifically one for World of Goo (again, included in the first ever bundle), carried some weight with word-of-mouth. At the time he had connections with many other independent developers in the industry, and so they brainstormed the finer details of the package. It was decided that charities should be involved, and Child's Play was chosen as such a worthy cause. The purchasing of the bundle should also be a simple as possible, so no user account/download client/additional extensions would be needed and all the software downloaded would be DRM-free and distributable.

Since then there have been six further bundles, as of November 2011, with more planned and other developers are taking note. The Indie Royale Company is currently on its third bundle of this kind, and the model has been anything if not successful. The first Humble Bundle yearned $1,270,000 and the most recent full bundle $2,169,000 showing that the interest is definitely still there. It is worth nothing that the platform with the highest individual donation average was Linux1, possibly showing that the Linux audience are more aware of the benefits of DRM-free software.

By allowing customers to freely distribute software as they please, Humble Bundle Inc. are essentially further promoting their own bundle through word-of-mouth and interpersonal marketing that would not otherwise be available. Plus, with the addition of one-time Steam keys (codes which, when redeemed, permanently enlist a certain game in your Steam library) and extended promotions with additional games added later, the appeal to purchase rather than receive from a friend is obvious. However, it does sadden me to admit that the Humble Bundle still does have a noticeable piracy reputation. Even though the bundle can be brought for as little as one cent, some still choose to illegally download from torrent sites. This is why we can't have nice things.

Developers also reap the benefits that a greater, more consumer-focused reputation reaps. Typically, the trend is that publishers and developers that utilize restrictive and excessive DRM fall victim to heightened piracy, usually as either a protest or for ease of use. With this certain business model however, the developers lament themselves in the community in a positive light and are more likely to be openly discussed on internet forums, more so in the larger Humble Bundles, where already successful and known companies are included and the lesser-known developers can 'piggy-back' off the success of others. Consumers purchase all the titles in a single pack so not only are they giving money to a developer they wouldn't otherwise but they are also given an all-access demo from which they could choose to explore the rest of aforementioned developer's catalogue. It's a win-win situation that is gaining industry recognition.